Why I Said What I Said

On my humor page, I make the humorous but somewhat sarcastic note about other people that I have been said to look like. At the writing of this article, it looked something like this:

People I have been said to look like

  • "Blues Traveller"
  • Michael Moore
  • Peter Jackson
  • That guy named Rob (or Frank) I used to know
  • Kind of like an Arab or something
  • Hurley

COMING SOON! "That guy from that Fionna Apple video."

Well, it includes that and the link to this article. Those are all good choices, and most people have told me this in the utmost respect and all. The thing is, I have a theory why it is.

Ok, I do look similar to Peter Jackson. My beard is curly, and so I have that "Arabic" look going.

Overall, though, I find that people have only a relative small "information space" for people. Certain distinct classes of people get simplified, with generally fewer specific facts being remembered. Redheads, for instance, are generally remembered for being redheads. Women with large breasts will be remembered, by both genders, has having large breasts. A large-breasted redhead will probably be chiefly remembered for that. Except for those people who know her.

Overweight and bearded are two of these classes. I also have curly hair. I would say it is safe to say this is another. Overweight white men with a beard and curly hair generally fit the class of those they say I look like. The top two choices, there, are beardless guys, but then that was what I was called when I didn't have a beard. It has largely been Peter Jackson now that I have one. I even thought about making a t-shirt that says "I am not Peter Jackson, but I will sign autographs!".

It is not so much that I think people know me forget what I look like. No, I think it is that they simplify those like Jackson down to overweight + bearded + curly and then, looking at me, they build up a Jackson-meme in which they appropriate characteristics from me in the present to rebuild him. I end up looking him because their memory of him is constructed around the ways in which we are similar, and these ways are built around the simplified image.

I am not angry at this. I find it endearing. I enjoyed the Peter Jackson humor. It's a joke in my household. But I do think it shows a very basic truth of how we look at each other, even close friends. Even those love are just one step above being simple stereotypes in our head.

This is written by W Doug Bolden on May 7th, 2006.

For those wishing to get in touch, you can contact me in a number of ways

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

The longer, fuller version of this text can be found on my FAQ: "Can I Use Something I Found on the Site?".

"The hidden is greater than the seen."